We took a commuter train from Paris to Auvers Sur Oise this morning and went out to the death site, in the wheat fields where Vincent, according to legend, took his own life by shooting himself in the upper abdomen. There are several problems with this scenario: eye witnesses put him west of town, in the opposite directions from the so-called wheat fields, which are right next to the cemetery where he is buried (how convenient for tour guides!) and the traditional death site is northeast of town, or more accurately, north of the train station on the east end of town. The biggest problem with the suicide theory is that the police investigation concluded the gun was fired some distance from the body, or "too far out" for Vincent to have pulled the trigger himself.
The likely murder suspect in this mystery is one Rene Secretan, who loved to dress up as Buffalo Bill ever since he saw the Wild West showman in Paris the year before (1889) at the international exposition where the Eiffel Tower premiered. When the movie, "Lust For Life" came out in 1956,
Mr. Secretan, who was by that time 82-years-old was quite upset. The Academy Award winning movie, starring Kirk Douglas as Vincent, really ticked off the old Frenchman. He gave several interviews on what a fruitcake van Gogh was and how he liked to abuse the mad Dutchman.
I went to both murder sites, saw a photograph of the weapon, which has now been "found." And interviewed a local expert on the case and I have a good idea of what really happened.
Afterwards, me an my posse went into the only restaurant open on a Monday in the small suburb of Paris and found a big wall mural at the end of the bar. It made me smile.
"Advise persons never to engage in killing the legend."
—Billy the Kid meets John Ford quote